My recent trip to Granada was frustrating at first. When I landed at Federico Garcia Lorca airport on 2 May I knew not a single word of Spanish. In addition I had barely any summer clothes with me and, crucially as I later learned, I came with my best pair of Clarks shoes (and no others) when what you need is a pair of soft soles to walk the hilly country. In short, I was ill-prepared.
Normally, travelling light is a perfectly good idea and I would buy what I need during the first few days. It's just that those first few days turned out to be (1) devilishly hot and sunny and (2) spent walking up and down the cobbled hills of the Albaicin and the Sacro Monte - not once, not twice, not even three times ... but numerous times!
Then, as the icing to my fruit cake of circumstances and poor preparation, it was festival season and the tourists around the city and at the Alhambra made sightseeing more of an ordeal than a pleasure. When I compared notes with others who'd seen the Alhambra later, they'd either been to see it in the evening, enhancing its romantic qualities, or went when they were practically the only tourists in sight.
Nevertheless, by the third day I'd bought several new T-shirts and a badly needed pair of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. I'm not exaggerating. I haven't worn anything else since my return! The rest of the trip was spent admiring the Alhambra from afar, exploring the city's avenues and side streets, Spanish cuisine, and getting better acquainted with the Sacro Monte hill and its caves, and its gypsy and flamenco history.
I chronicled my trip with hundreds of photographs and am gradually putting up a subset that seem interesting (while avoiding some of the usual touristic stereotypes).
Orange Curves and Steel
Taken in the famous Terminal 4 at Barajas Airport in Madrid - easily one of the most striking interiors of any airport I've seen. The airport opened in 2006 - here is an archaeology student's short film of a tour through the building, recommended to get a feel for the place:
It was nearly sunset when I arrived at Barajas - this is the view to the East.
Receding Lamp Ceiling
These striking lamps are laid out in a ceiling grid and create a powerful visual effect.
Palace on the Hill
The summer palace of the Alhambra. The rest of the Alhambra is to the right of this picture.
View to a Bridge
The cobbled path that leads up to the ticket office of the Alhambra is a steep and winding one. Here's one of the views on the way.
Shades on a Wall
This is part of the wall along the path to the Alhambra, on your left as you go up. The interplay of light and shadow created a subtle effect.
A small stream along the same path.
Shadows and Light
It was a hot weekend and the heat made the difference between shade and exposed areas all the more tangible. Here the contrast between the red wall and greenery in the shade and the overexposed soil jumps out at you. The mixed fate of the tree finally lends it a calming effect.
This street on the other side of the hill of the Alhambra is full of little souvenir shops.
Derelict with Dolls
This abandoned building, opposite the souvenir shops in the previous picture, was adorned with colourful dolls and a couple of travellers seemed to be inhabiting it for the time being. A few days later when I passed by the dolls had been removed and a big skip was filled with trash, presumably with rubbish from inside the building.
This old ruined bridge is visible across the "river" along the Carrera del Darro.
The Colour of Houses
Colourful buildings along the river next to the Carrera del Darro.
The Flag of Granada
The striking combinations of bright yellow painted walls and dark brown doors provide a striking texture of colour throughout Granada. Here I tried to frame them in a pattern reminiscent of a flag.
Shades and a Wall
Pipe and Wall
The colour contrasts amidst the heat and the shade are almost tangible and an endless source of interesting juxtapositions.
City Wall from a Distance
The old city wall, with its distinctive steps, can be seen from this unexpected vantage point.
The Alhambra - again
Who can get enough of seeing the Alhambra? The ancient face of the old fortress is framed for pedestrians by a view through this residential iron support.
This modern building threw back a fascinating reflection of the much older building behind me.
A pretty painting on the rolling door of this cafe - but the play of shadows and colour give the whole scene a slightly picturesque feel.
One of several unmistakably Moorish buildings within the precinct of the Alhambra.
Carlos V Arena
The Renaissance-style structure built by king Carlos V, never completed. It is famously incongruous with the intricate and understated Moorish architecture it tried to supersede.
One of many intricately chiseled arches.
The Arabic scriptures are unreadable to most people - but beautifully created. It also creates subtle effects with the surrounding wall decoration.
The serene beauty of the Patio de los Arrayanes (courtyard of the Arrayanes, a type of myrtle).
A deliberately framed photograph that nevertheless reveals the exquisite attention to detail evident in all the decoration, and an overall architectural and decorative composition that pleases the eye from almost any angle.
View from the Alhambra
Not only is the Alhambra an amazing site to behold, it also offers great views of the surrounding city - like this one.
Hot and White
These white walls are not an unusual sight in Granada, but this perspective rendered them particularly striking.
This cave on the Sacro Monte hill was the first of many I saw. At first they look quite unobtrusive, but in that hot and hilly landscape they soon gain an uncanny aura.
Cave near City Wall
In the absence of human activity around this cave and the aloofness of the city wall in the background, the aloes gain a unique presence.
Aloes on the Hill
These aloes seem to be reaching out to the sky.
Who lives here?
Fountain and Statue
Statues are common throughout the city. This one is surrounded by little fountains.
Colour composition around this little bridge crossing the river Darro.
This broken old bridge next to the river Darro is fascinating, it looks as if it holds a secret it will not give up.
More Colour Codes
Shades in Yellow
This car was positioned perfectly to complement the wall opposite.